The police in Leicester, United Kingdom — which has been the epicentre of Hindu-Muslim clashes over the past week — have said that they are continuing with proactive patrols to maintain calm in the area.
Protests had turned violent over the weekend, with people of both communities blaming each other for the violence.
As the matter escalated, leaders of both communities on Tuesday put out a joint statement carrying a message of unity and peace. The Muslim Council of Britain has, meanwhile, criticised the Indian high commission's statement which highlighted the attack on the Indian community, but only mentioned attacks on Hindus, leaving out any mentions of the Indian Muslim community.
Here's the latest from Leicester:
What have the community leaders said?
Leaders of the Hindu and the Muslim community read out a joint statement on Tuesday in front of the James Masjid in Leicester. They requested people to maintain harmony while recalling how both communities have lived in peace for years.
Pradyumna Pradipgajjar from Iskcon Hindu temple read out the statement, surrounded by members of both communities. He said, "This is a statement of unity between the Hindu and Muslim community. We, the family of Leicester stand in front of you, not only as Hindus and Muslims but as brothers and sisters. Our two faiths have lived harmoniously in this wonderful city for over half a century. We arrived in this city together. We faced the same challenges together."
Pradipgajjar said the communities were saddened by the recent clashes. He said, "We fought our racist haters together and collectively made this city a beacon of diversity. That is why, today, we are saddened and heartbroken to see the eruption of tension and violence, physical attacks on innocent individuals and unwarranted damage to property are not a part of a decent society, and indeed, not part of our faiths. What we have seen is not what we are about."
The statement said that there was no space in the city for the outside influence which created a divide in the community. "Leicester has no place for any foreign extremist ideology that causes division. Our message to anyone who sows disharmony between us is clear — we will not let you succeed. We ask all to respect the sanctity of religious places both mosques and mandirs alike," the statement said.
What has been the latest police action?
The Leicestershire police said in a statement on Wednesday that they were continuing the ongoing operation in Leicester through patrols to maintain calm in the area. They also said that there had been no incidents reported in the update early on Wednesday.
"Our policing operations continue in East Leicester tonight with proactive patrols. The situation is calm," the statement said.
The Leicestershire police has been conducting police patrols over the past few days to maintain calm and have made several arrests in connection to the violence.
Leicestershire Police's temporary chief constable, Rob Nixon, said that arrests regarding the violence will likely to continue over the coming months. BBC quoted Nixon as saying, "We have about a 50-strong investigation team that are wrapping across all of these different elements and I know that we're starting to identify imagery of people."
How misinformation was spread
Nixon said there were people from outside of Leicester who had been arrested. He told BBC, "So they are stoking up people from outside of Leicester to try and join a fight, which is probably being fuelled by the social media rhetoric."
Local journalists have said on Twitter that social media messaging and the spread of misinformation has been behind the violence in an area that has largely been peaceful. TV presenter Sangita Myska said on Twitter, "Young men - Hindu and Muslim - are being stirred-up by online disinformation and misinformation. Then, manipulated by far right political forces and extremists. Don't let it it happen. Moderates must speak out #notinmyfaith"
Another journalist, Sunny Hundal, shared videos of large crowds from both sides chanting slogans and giving provocative speeches.
Forwarded messages and social media posts played a role too. A different BBC report quoted Nixon as saying, "Because what we know people are doing is they are receiving fake news via social media and then they are forwarding it on, so it's amplifying the problem, and it's raising fear."
The report said that a 21-year-old who was arrested admitted to being influenced by social media posts.
Leicester East MP Claudia Webbe also called out "toxic messages" of hate and fake news being spread to disturb peace in the region. She said, "The toxic messages of hate and fake news being spread via social media and other online communication by extremist groups do not represent Leicester and are not wanted in our city. I am dealing with huge numbers of communication and visits with residents, particularly women and young people seeking support. I will continue to work with the community and the police and appeal for calm."
Why did UK Muslim body criticise Indian high commission?
Meanwhile, The Muslim Council of Britain(MCB) wrote to the Indian High Commissioner Vikram K Doraiswami on Tuesday regarding its statement on September 19 on the events in Leicester.
Zara Mohammed, the secretary general of the MCB, said, "Whilst it is right that we condemn the desecration of Hindu symbols, you must represent all Indians and also condemn the deliberate targeting, intimidation and instances of assault of Muslims and Sikhs by large groups of thugs chanting far-right Hindutva slogans, mirroring tactics used by the RSS against communities in India."
The Indian High Commission had on September 19 condemned attacks only on Hindus in the area. It had said, "We strongly condemn the violence perpetrated against the Indian Community in Leicester and vandalization of premises and symbols of Hindu religion. We have strongly taken up this matter with the UK authorities and have sought immediate action against those involved in these attacks. We call on the authorities to provide protection to the affected people."
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